Between productions at London’s Royal Opera House, the Aussie tenor has found time to sing a newly recovered opera by Liszt.

I’d never heard of Liszt’s Sardanapalobefore being headhunted by musicologist and University of Cambridge senior lecturer David Trippett. A lengthy chat about the origins of the project and a number of editions of the piano score later and I was hooked.

I know some of Liszt’s Lieder – the Tre Sonetti di Petrarcaare sublime and have featured in my shower repertoire – but though I was aware of his close relationship with Wagner, I hadn’t come across Liszt as an opera composer.

The Death of Sardanapalus The Death of Sardanapalus by Eugène Delacroix, 1827

The story is based on Lord Byron’s play Sardanapaluspublished in 1821 (in the same volume as I Due Foscari) and dedicated to Goethe. It tells the story of the downfall of Sardanapalus, the pacifist, narcissistic, last King of Assyria who ignores the warnings of the concubine Myrrha and his vizier Belese and pardons his enemies. When they besiege Nineveh during a flooding of the Euphrates, it spells doom for Sardanapalus and the Assyrian nation....